Child Custody

Compassionate And Knowledgeable Guidance In Child Custody and Allocation Disputes

In a family legal dispute, the greatest concern parents have is the well-being of the children involved. At Mitchell Highlander, LLC, we understand and appreciate how important it is to protect your children.

Whether you are involved in a custody dispute, need help enforcing a child support order, or require a modification to an existing custody arrangement or child support amount, we can help.

The attorneys at Mitchell Highlander, LLC are experienced and dedicated advocates. Throughout your case, we will take the time to listen to your concerns and understand your goals. In every action we take, we will keep you informed about what is happening and work with you to ensure that we are doing what is best for you and your children.

Custody, Visitation And “Allocation Of Parental Responsibilities”

Courts determine parental responsibilities (formerly known as custody and visitation) according to the best interests of the child. This means courts will look at the role each parent has in the children’s lives, the relationships between the parents and a variety of other factors to determine what arrangement will be best for the children involved. Illinois courts do not factor in the gender of the parent when making a decision.

We can help you craft a parenting plan with the other parent that is best suited to your family situation. And when necessary, we can protect your relationship in court.

Need A Modification?

Life doesn’t end at divorce. A job change, medical emergency or other issue may mean that your parenting plan or support order is no longer right for your situation. If you have experienced a significant change in circumstances, you can petition the court for a modification. But you must be proactive and file a petition as soon as you realize the current order is not in children’s best interest or appropriate. The current order will be in force until the court modifies it.

Please note that in Illinois, support calculations are now determined by an “income shares” model. This means that both parents’ incomes are used to calculate support. If one has changed, a modification may be appropriate.

If you and your child’s other parent are separating, you probably have many questions about how that will impact you and your children.

At Mitchell Highlander, LLC, we welcome the opportunity to address your concerns. For over a decade, we have helped parents resolve all sorts of custody and parenting time issues.

Call 618-855-9033 to discuss your specific situation with an experienced lawyer. From offices in Maryville, O’Fallon, and Greenville, we serve clients throughout Madison, St. Clair, and Bond Counties.

What is the role of a formal parenting plan?

If you are on fairly good terms with your children’s other parent, you may be able to negotiate a joint parenting plan to be submitted to the judge for approval. The plan lays out a specific parenting schedule, including holidays, vacations and other special occasions.

Even if you and your children’s other parent are not able to agree on such a plan, you still need to make a proposal for one. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) requires each parent to submit a proposed parenting plan. Parents must file this plan within 120 days after filing for or receiving a petition concerning custody.

This petition is often connected to a divorce proceeding, but it can also apply to unmarried parents.

What happens if a parent wants to relocate with a child?

When a parent has been awarded a majority of or equal parenting time, he or she cannot relocate arbitrarily.

Under Illinois law, a parent awarded the majority of or equal parenting time must give notice to the other parent. If the other parent objects, the parent seeking to relocate must file a petition with the court, seeking permission for the move.

The law specifies specific distances that a parent can move without having to get approval from the other parent or the court. In most parts of Illinois, including Madison, St. Clair, and Bond Counties, this distance is 25 miles outside of the state and 50 miles in the state of Illinois.

When can you modify a parenting plan based on changed circumstances?

If you and your children’s other parent agree on a change in the plan, you can ask the judge to formalize that at any time. This is done by filing court documents.

If you and your children’s other parent don’t agree, however, you will have to wait two years before you can seek a change in the allocation of decision-making responsibilities.

The only exception to this time limitation is child endangerment. Endangerment could include abuse, excessive alcohol or drug use, or other risky behavior.

The allocation of parenting time can be modified at any time there is a substantial change in circumstances and a modification is necessary to serve the best interest of the minor child. What constitutes a change in circumstances varies widely, but can include:

  • the age of the child
  • a parent moving
  • a change in a parent’s work schedule
  • a child’s extracurricular activities
  • behavior by a parent that negatively impacts a child

Once the substantial change has been established, the court will evaluate whether a modification of parenting time is in the child’s best interests.

Raising kids cost a lot of money. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated the cost for a middle-income family to be over $200,000 through age 17.

Naturally, then, child support is a key issue in divorce and parental responsibility cases. At Mitchell Highlander LLC, we help parents resolve support issues and act in the best interest of their kids.

Call 618-855-9033 to discuss your unique circumstances with an experienced lawyer. From offices in O’Fallon and Maryville, we serve clients throughout Madison County and the surrounding area.

Child Support Awards Must Now Take Account Of Both Parents’ Incomes.

Effective on July 1, 2017, Illinois changed its law significantly on how child support is calculated. Under the old law, the noncustodial parent paid a percentage of that parent’s income, based on the number of kids.

With the law change, however, awards for child support are based on the joint income of the parents, as well as parenting time. This is a completely different way of calculating support from the previous method.

It also takes more time to gather the information needed to calculate the support. Before the change, you needed only one party’s income information, but now you need both parties’ income information.

A Spousal Maintenance Award Can Affect The Amount Of Child Support.

Not all divorce cases involve spousal maintenance. But in cases that do involve maintenance, the amount of maintenance that is awarded can affect the child support calculation.

This is because when a spouse paying maintenance deducts that amount from his or her net income, it reduces the income level that is used to calculate child support. In practice, then, an ex-spouse who seeks a higher spousal support award could end up getting less child support than would otherwise have been the case.

Once the judge has decided support should be awarded, the amount is supposed to be set by a formula. But this calculation is not merely an easy algebraic equation. Judges have the discretion to go up or down from the guideline amount. And it can be tricky to determine exactly how to calculate gross income.

Tax considerations also come into play. For example, starting in 2019 a spouse paying support to an ex will not be able to deduct those payments from gross income when filing federal taxes.

Another reason why determining the amount of spousal support isn’t always so straightforward is the interplay between spousal support and child support. Under current Illinois law, the amount of spousal maintenance gets deducted from the net income of the spouse paying it — which may result in less child support for the spouse receiving maintenance.

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(618) 855-9033
2135 N. Center Street, Maryville, IL 62062
220 E State Street, O'Fallon, IL 62269
102 N. 2nd St., Greenville, IL 62246